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Pairing: Willow Rosenberg/Tara Maclay
Alternative name(s): Tillow, Twillow, Willara
Gender category: femslash
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Canonical?: yes
Prevalence: high
Archives: The Kitten Board
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Willow/Tara is a popular canon femslash pairing in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom between Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay.


Willow and Tara's relationship was not introduced until season 4 of Buffy, alongside Tara's characters. The two meet at college and quickly bound over both being witches and their interest for magic in general. The relationship comes to a head when Willow's ex-boyfriend Oz comes back to Sunnydale after claiming to be able to control his werewolf side, a problem that had previously lead to breakup. Faced with her growing feeling for Tara, Willow chooses not to get back together with Oz and instead starts dating Tara.

The two remain a stable couple throughout the seasons, however they do break up for a time after Willow is seen to be abusing her magic, something that Tara strongly disagrees with. Once Willow works through her addiction to magic she and Tara get back together, only for Tara to be killed by a stray bullet in front of Willow.

Fannish Opinion

From the Willow/Tara shipper's manifesto:

From their first meeting, these two obviously had a lot in common. Over the next few years, we would share their journey through tragedy and heartbreak, and joy and the promise of reconciliation. Their love was obvious, as well as their devotion. Many believe they had the strongest and healthiest relationship in the Buffyverse.[1]

In stormwreath's What people were saying about Willow/Tara back in 1999... post, they searched archives for alt-tv-buffy-v-slayer for 1999/2000 to see what the fannish opinion was when season 4 was first airing.

Some people were seeing the subtext the moment 'Hush' was aired:
It's not just that they held hands. It was the entire scene -- Willow is startled by Tara's touch, Tara's hand slips underneath hers, they lace their fingers, Tara has this "dare I hope?" expression on her face. The lesbian claims are not just wishful thinking. They might not be right, but neither are they completely without basis.
Particularly since they were being chased by freaky floating guys. I'd have thought they would have been a lot more anxious. (If that were the main emotion to convey, I would have had Tara forcefully grab Willow's hand, shake it a couple of times as if to say, concentrate! But they didn't stage it that way.) The only non-sensual explanation I can come up with is that Tara was tentative; the slow groping expressed hesitation about using her power and not something sensual. Personally, I'm going with the sensual explanation until the show demonstrates to the contrary. It fits the staging, it fits the final conversation between Tara and Willow, it fits with alt.Willow.

(I assume 'alt.Willow is a reference to vampire!Willow from 'Doppelgangland' and the whole "I thnk I'm kinda gay!" controversy. I'm also a bit boggled by the idea of Tara, of all people, forcefully grabbing Willow's hand and shaking it and saying "Concentrate!". *g* But this was her first appearance on the show.)

That doesn't mean Tara's a potential love interest, of course, but my first thought after they slammed the drink machine against the door was "climax". I'll take the subtext even further and point out the same thing I did with Spike earlier this season. If Willow IS attracted to Tara, notice the girl she's attracted to is a powerful blonde?


But not everybody was convinced:

Is this the wetdream of little Buffy fanboys? I watched "Hush" last night and didn't derive any lesbian hinting whatsoever. Willow found a "kindred spirit-witch" and a good friend, that's all. Ok fanboys, here's a lesson on women...just because they hold hands, hug, or even kiss does not mean they are lesbians.
Why are you so eager to see a lesbian Willow? It seems that you are the one who is reaching here. This is the 4th season for Gods sake, don't you think it would have come out by now. My prediction is that this is going to be debated until the final episode of the last season. If Joss wanted Willow to be lesbian then don't you think he could manage to write this into a script? The only way Willow is going to turn out to be lesbian is if the ratings get so low that they think this would boost them up. And right after that they would probably kill off the Willow character.
But you know, any intense scene between 2 women MUST mean they're budding lesbians.

Which got other people annoyed:

I'm just curious why some people seem *SO* desperate to see no subtext whatsoever between Tara and Willow. Some people seem just as evangelical in their determination NOT to see anything remotely readable as subtext, as those who preach for it. I'm seeing lots of posts starting along the lines of... "I have nothing against Lesbianism... BUT..."[2]

This back and forth trend continued until the relationship became canon, which was met with much celebration from fans of the ship and of the show alike.

In 2017, Juliet Bennett Rylah wrote How Buffy the Vampire Slayer Depicted One of TV's First Lesbian Relationships for Nerdist, and reached out to Buffy fans for their recollections of the relationship.

Writer/HIV activist Brenden Shucart told me, “I remember how excited their romance made me. How much I loved watching them flirt and be awkward. I remember realizing as they built it up over episodes that this was gonna be a ‘real thing.’ And I even though I was going out and getting in trouble by that point, I always tried to be home to watch it. Because it made me feel normal.”

Meanwhile, writer Amanda Grace told me, “Seeing the evolution from friendship to romantic relationship between Willow and Tara made me feel so much more comfortable with myself. At a time where I had limited exposure to lesbian relationships and was questioning my own sexuality, the relationship on Buffy made me feel so much more normal.”[3]

Another fan on Tumblr reminisces about the significance of the Willow/Tara relationship for queer fans at the time:

I started being gay shipper trash in like 2002 when I was a little tiny preteen and Buffy was literally the only place you could ship queer women. There was literally nothing else. I know I wasn't the only expert at sneaking out of bed to re-watch Willow and Tara scenes with the TV muted.

You had to work for it back then lol. I would cross reference the TV guide to see what re-runs were on each day with the list of Buffy episode summaries somewhere in the depths of the internet and make sure I was in front of the TV to hit 'record' on time.

I labeled all the VHS's with my own little code so I knew which episodes had which scenes in them, and hid them behind my books in the bookcase. I can still feel the adrenaline of putting a tape into the VCR as silently as possible and the hum of fast-forwarding to the gay stuff, keeping my finger on the remote so I could immediately turn the TV off if someone caught me.

I still remember running home from the bus stop so I'd have the half hour before my mom got home to get on fanfiction.net on the one computer in the house and read stories about what Willow and Tara's freaking commitment ceremony would have been like if she hadn't died, because most people couldn't even imagine a wedding being possible.[4]


Willow/Tara became the most popular femslash ship on Buffy, a position previously held by Buffy/Faith.

Notable Fanworks





Archives & Fan Sites


Mailing Lists


  1. ^ Willow Rosenberg/Tara Maclay (Buffyverse)
  2. ^ What people were saying about Willow/Tara back in 1999...
  3. ^ How Buffy the Vampire Slayer Depicted One of TV's First Lesbian Relationships, Juliet Bennett Rylah, Nerdist Archive. Published March 15, 2017 (Accessed February 27, 2022).
  4. ^ I'm going to watch the Avalance wedding tomorrow..., allofthismatters, Tumblr. Posted September 8, 2021 (Accessed February 27, 2022).